Impersonating Real Life
Release Date: May 09, 2008
Audience: Older children and adults
Runtime: 112 minutes
Distributor: IFC Films
Director: Harmony Korine
Executive Producer: Peter Watson
Producer: Nadja Romain
Writer: Harmony Korine and Avi Korine
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IFC Films/IFC Entertainment
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Rainbow Media Holdings, Inc. (Independent Film Channel/IFC Films/IFC First Take/AMC/WE)
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The first story is about Michael (played by Diego Luna), a Michael Jackson impersonator who moves into a commune in the Scottish highlands that is filled with other celebrity impersonators. Marilyn Monroe (played by Samantha Morton) is married to Charlie Chaplin (played by Denis Lavant), and their young daughter impersonates Shirley Temple. There’s the Pope, Madonna, Queen Elizabeth II, James Dean, Abe Lincoln, and others. Together they prepare to put on a large musical show for the local town.
The other unrelated story is of a priest, Father Umbrillo (played by avant-garde director Werner Herzog), who has nuns in his parish who can fall out of an airplane and live. They head to the Vatican since this is now a miracle.
Confused? Well, most viewers would be. The story of Michael, a man who isn’t comfortable with himself, living with a group of other people who want to live their life as someone famous has the makings of a whimsical, even relevant story. However, the filmmakers come close to addressing the issue, but never really do. There is much alienation in the movie, and that perhaps is the filmmaker’s point. Michael and Marilyn begin having strong feelings for each other, which enrages the jealous husband, Charlie. We see Charlie’s sadistic side as he forces his wife Marilyn to have intercourse with him and does other things to cause her pain. There’s a side plot of the commune’s sheep becoming sick and needing to be put down, which, like the rest of the movie, seems to have a point, but one is never apparent.
The worldview in the impersonator’s commune is mostly devoid of God, though there is the “Pope” impersonator, but he is seen in bed with “Queen Elizabeth.” There is an inherent identity problem with the impersonators since they desire to live as someone else to receive their identity. When their “grand show” is a flop, Marilyn commits suicide. She appears later in a painted egg, telling Michael that everyone has to pursue their own destiny. Her death drives Michael to leave the commune and to give up impersonation. Even so, the movie’s last images make it seem that perhaps he went back to his former life.
The worldview of the “falling nuns” story has elements of a biblical worldview. Father Umbrillo speaks to a young man, telling him that he needs to stop adulterous affairs and then his wife might take him back. The priest “absolves him” of his sins and comforts the man, telling him how God forgives him. The first time the nun falls out of the plane, she prays to God, saying that she trusts and believes in Him. She survives the fall without a scratch. Soon, all the nuns are jumping out of the plane, trusting God. The nuns joyfully board Father Umbrillo’s plane to visit the Vatican since their exploits have been deemed true miracles. However, the last images of the film are of the crashed plane and the bodies of the nuns among the wreckage. So, did God let them down? The point isn’t clear, and it seems that that is the point the filmmakers wish to make.
The movie is surreal and meant to make the viewer ponder its story. There is foul language (oddly enough almost exclusively by the “Abe Lincoln” character) and a depicted scene of forced sex. Also, however, the hymn “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” is played over some of the scenes, and characters pray to God and receive answers.
MISTER LONELY is intentionally enigmatic. The production values are somewhat less, being obviously low budget. The character of Michael becomes endearing and, when he gives up impersonation, there is a glimmer of hope that otherwise the movie is missing. Ultimately, the movie’s worldview is mixed.
MISTER LONELY is surreal and meant to make the viewer ponder its story. There is some foul language and depicted forced sex. Also, however, the hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” is played over some of the scenes, and characters pray to God and receive answers. The story is intentionally enigmatic. The character of Michael becomes endearing. When he gives up impersonation, there is a glimmer of hope that otherwise the movie is missing. The movie’s strange mixture warrants strong caution.